Down 15 in the second half, Indiana finds a way to win against Morehead State

  • 12/20/2023 6:40 am in

Indiana flirted with an embarrassing defeat against Morehead State Tuesday night, but a combination of crucial plays down the stretch, both on offense and defense, helped the Hoosiers pull out with a 69-68 win. We’ve seen this story before already this season from Indiana. The Hoosiers start sluggish and eventually gather enough strength late in games to earn the win. It may not always look pretty, but Indiana has managed to obtain the better of the two results in these types of games.

In the first half, Indiana looked like a different team than the one that played on Saturday against Kansas. From the jump, Indiana struggled to find its footing and then Morehead State got into a rhythm that Indiana couldn’t break.

The Eagles made shots throughout the first half as things got bad for Indiana in the final ten minutes. Drew Thelwell scored at the 6:10 mark, which spurred a scoreless five-minute drought for Indiana. No matter what the Hoosiers were doing, their lagging offense silenced their efforts going into the half, prompting danger on the horizon.

“I thought at the start of the game we were flat, and like we didn’t even want to be out there,” Mike Woodson said postgame.

It took until the game’s final three minutes for Indiana to take the lead, and a lot of that came because of Anthony Walker’s offense and the defense’s performance late.

Walker tied his career high with 18 points, adding a much-needed boost off the bench. The first-year Hoosier was the driving force in the first half and added more quality minutes in the second to help Indiana crawl back. The lack of bench production has sometimes hindered Indiana this season, but Walker, a reserve, came through when IU needed it most.

“He deserves the MVP tonight,” Woodson said. “He played 22 minutes, had 18 points, nine rebounds. By far his best game since he’s been wearing an Indiana uniform. We needed every bit of it to win this game tonight.”

Trey Galloway’s defensive effort played a significant role in the rally. It won’t show up in the box score, but his defense might have been the deciding factor late in the game.

With 15 points in the first half and another 15 in the second, Morehead State’s Jordan Lathon was unstoppable for a long stretch. His confidence grew as he scored 15 second-half points in the first ten minutes. It seemed like Lathon would propel his team to a big-time win, but then, all of a sudden, that all came to a halt.

The game’s final nine minutes saw Lathon go scoreless and become a non-factor. Galloway guarded him well enough to take away his offense in the most crucial parts of the game.

The game’s final play saw Lathon on the left wing for one last shot, a potential buzzer-beater to send Morehead State home victorious. But Malik Reneau stretched out in front of Lathon and got the block as time expired. It was Indiana’s biggest defensive play of the game.

“He made some tough shots,” Woodson said. “I knew they were going to go to him at the end, and I thought they got the switch that they wanted with Malik, but Malik just held in there and kept his ground and was able to get a tip, his hands on the ball when he shot it. I thought Gallo started to really take the ball away from him some. When he got rid of it, I told Gallo not to let him get it back if he could so he was trying in that area to keep the ball out of his hands because he was basically the hottest player on the floor.”

Tuesday’s win was another close call with an opponent Indiana should have beaten comfortably. They’ve toyed with worrisome losses against Army, Wright State, Florida Gulf Coast and now Morehead State. These handful of games have caused panic but even with the danger they’ve provoked, the Hoosiers still find a way to win.

With these types of performances, concern is understandable. It would be one thing if these games ended in losses, but one way or another, Indiana has pulled through. And in the end, winning is what matters most.

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